Jul 17, 2023

Israel’s Protests Are Back Amid Resumed Efforts To Reform The Nation’s Supreme Court

Reform would objectively increase democratic representation by strengthening elected positions.

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What’s happening: Earlier this year, Israel was rocked with widespread protests because of right-wing attempts to reform the judicial system. The protests successfully pushed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone his efforts—the military had threatened to defect, and mass trade union protests would have shut down Israel’s economy and health sector. After resuming efforts, the protests are back.

Why? Israel’s court system has unprecedented power compared to America’s. Because Israel lacks clearly defined checks and balances, the country’s Supreme Court defined its own limitations and uses them for rulings. It adopted a rule allowing itself to block nearly any “unreasonable” policy, or any policy it doesn’t like. The court also controls the justice selection process, unlike in America where elected officials do, leaving Israel’s court nearly untouchable to the voters.

The goal: Despite losing elections, the left still maintains immense power over Israel’s court and consistently curtails the democratically elected right-wing’s legislative goals promised to constituents. So, the right-wing coalition, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, promised reforms to introduce formal checks on the court. It wants to eliminate the “unreasonable” standard and increase the political diversity of the court.

Beyond the headlines: Reform would objectively increase democratic representation by strengthening elected leaders, though the Biden-aligned opposition has framed it as an attack on democracy and has even helped ignite and fund aspects of the mass protests.

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